It is past the third Sunday of Advent and our waiting and longing is swallowed up by shopping, concerts & pageants, Cranberry Bliss bars & Peppermint mochas, baking, decorating, and holiday parties. These are all great, but it is challenging to ‘wait for the Lord’ in this season of distraction!. I reflected in an earlier post on how entering into ‘waiting’ is to be dissatisfied with the status quo, to long for something better. But what can be better than ‘the most wonderful time of the year?!?” I know Christmas time can be depressing, but I get excited each year and I want each Christmas to be special and memorable. I get caught up in whirlwind and you probably do too.
When the first Christmas happened it was sudden. An angel appears to a teenage girl and calls her ‘highly favored.’ She is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and, as a virgin, becomes pregnant with Jesus–God of the universe come in human flesh. From the time of Gabriel’s angelic visitation to Jesus’ birth in a barn, Mary waits, the way all women wait for their baby to come. But the Christmas story are not what Israel was waiting for. God becoming human was so wonderful and surprising that nobody was waiting for that! They were waiting for Israel’s redemption and restoration and the full return from exile. The Israelites longed to be free from the Romans (the last in a long line of pagan-overlords). The first Advent was as much about surprise as waiting.
So why do we institutionalize waiting? Eschatology is a difficult subject to untangle but part of our Advent waiting is about Christ’s return–His second Advent. If anyone tells you that they know exactly what Jesus’ return is going to look like because they read it in the Bible, beware. They are going to sell you a series of novels or make movies which are a pain in the left-behind to watch. We know Jesus is coming back and we hope and long for the Day, but the details remain a mystery, locked in the apocalyptic language of Revelation. The second Advent also carries the same element of surprise as the first. And we wait. . . .
One way to understand waiting is ‘cultivated attentiveness.’ When you wait, in the Christian sense, you are looking for where God’s Kingdom will break in. You watch. You read the ‘signs.’ You listen.
Part of my regular morning routine is showering (maybe yours too?).My bathroom is far enough away from our water heater that when I turn the hot water on, it takes a couple minutes for the water temperature to change from icy cold to warm. I have gotten in the habit of turning the water on and waiting before I climb into the shower. I sense when the hot water comes in. Whatever it is that happens, maybe a slight change in density when the water hits the tile, I hear. And that is when I climb into the shower. If you were to give me an audio recording of a cold shower or a hot shower, I am sure I couldn’t tell you the difference, but because I have learned to pay attention in my daily routine I know when the change occurs.
I think this is part of what it means for us to wait. We pay attention and listen for what God is doing. We look for where the Kingdom is breaking in and people are experiencing freedom. As we pay attention to God, we sense imperceptible shifts. We see the ways Jesus comes to us. We sense a change and know that God is on the move. I am so grateful for this season. I love the music, the Christmas cheer, time with family and friends. But my prayer is that as we wait we will also cultivate an attentive longing for more of Christ’s presence and reign in our hearts! May we long all the more for his return!